It is worth investing in some sort of learning of logic. Our ability to reason is incredibly important. Not only do we need to reason when it comes to putting together pieces of theology, but we also need to reason when simply deciphering the meaning of biblical passages. One of the examples of where our reasoning falls short is described later in this volume. In relation to general revelation, the definition of revelation typically implies that the individual can come to some sort of “general” knowledge of God. For example, I can see the complexity of design in nature, and thus reason that there is a designer, a creator. But that is not going to give the specific detail that God is triune.
It is said that general revelation cannot be salvational. It is impossible to be saved from general revelation. If this were the case, however, then we might question what revelation even is. If it is not the breaking in of truth, and the truth sets us free, then is it revelation? If we say that general revelation is indeed the breaking in of truth, but not in a salvific manner, then we must ask what is being set free at all? If there is truth to be revealed, namely, that God exists and that He has created the universe, then certainly that is enough to imply the next step of a personal deity that would require certain moral values. Our conscience even bears witness to that much. If this deity is not personal, then why would He create at all? And if indeed He is personal, then why would He allow us to continue in rejection of Him?
Therefore, it is stated that people can be condemned on the basis of general revelation, but cannot be saved. I would say that you cannot have it both ways. Either you cannot be condemned upon general revelation, because it is not revelation at all, or you can indeed be saved on the basis of general revelation. Sure, specific revelation must come. And, if it is true conversion, then it shall come. I would expect that for someone to see and reason even to the point of accepting and embracing general revelation would already mean that the Holy Spirit is drawing them.
This is the way that reason works. It is contradictory to hold to general revelation being both open revelation to all, and at the same time it is not able to save. It takes reasoning capacity to plunge the depths of our thoughts and theology. When we compare our theology of anthropology and salvation with eschatology, are they mutual? Or, if we contrast our beliefs regarding ecclesiology and God’s nature, do they agree? How often do our beliefs contradict, simply because we were unwilling to reason! There is the obvious argument that we should trust the Holy Spirit, but we must also not be naïve in thinking that demons or our own thoughts cannot whisper a false interpretation into our inner ear.
It is through reason that we “love God with all of [our] mind”. It is through reason that we “take captive every thought”. These commands are not possible outside of reason. They presuppose that we can reason. Even the discernment of the spirits presupposes that we can reason. Discernment does not work independent of our reason, but along side of. It is true that reason alone will come to false conclusions. This is why we trust in the Sprit to lead us into all truth. Yet, that in no way should validate for us the rejection of reason, especially if we are misunderstanding reason to be dead intellectualism.
In regard to reason as a source of theology, we can see how this can go south quite quickly. If all we use is philosophy and reason, by what means shall we come unto the God of Israel? What makes Jesus so much more obviously God than Allah? We hold to that it is not by reason, but by evidence that we are convinced. Yet, the interpretation of that evidence is based in reason. This is the relationship of reason to theology. Our reason is not foremost. Actually, reason is introduced after we’ve already been given the foundation. It is upon the foundation of recognizing certain truths of the faith that we then employ reason to interpret those truths. Reason will ultimately lie to us, because our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. It is the Scripture that reveals to us truth, and reason that helps us to put the pieces together. However, reason coupled with a proper relationship with Christ is a marvel.
Paul had said, “We’ve been given the mind of Christ”. If we take that as only applying to the apostle, then we have misunderstood the text. The pique of the Gospel is that Christ does not leave us to our own reason. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is an affront to reason. We are given a completely different ‘wisdom’ by which we think. This wisdom is the very wisdom of God. By that wisdom we reason concerning the faith. God endures suffering. It is in His nature. Therefore, any theology that promotes Christ taking all of the judgment and ‘curse’ so that we don’t have to endure it is a lie. We’re told to rejoice in trials and tribulation. We’re told that Christ chastises whom He loves. Just as God willingly endured suffering from the creation of the world – knowing that Adam would sin – and just as Jesus endured suffering on the cross, we too must endure suffering. It is innate within the faith. We uphold this by the reasoning of God, and not by the reasoning of men. This is where it is tricky.
If we hold to the mere philosophy of men, we come to a place where we begin to say things like, ‘Sin is anything that does not promote human flourishing.’ While this sounds good, it is a lie. It might be simple enough to understand, but it is wrong. We shouldn’t accept something as truth simply because it has good reasoning behind it. Our understanding comes from God. This is why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom. If we don’t possess a proper relationship before the Lord, which leads us to understanding His mindset and heart, then we are left to our own devices, and it is no wonder why we have so many various opinions regarding the faith. The problem is not with our reasoning ability – that obviously works just fine. The problem is that it is our reason, and not the very intellect God has given us surrendered to the heart and purpose of God.
It is so simple, and yet such a stumbling block, to realize that God does not command us to reason out the faith according to our own brains. While reason is to be harnessed, it is to be harnessed in submission to the heart of God. Why do I not say submission to the Spirit? That phrase has been hijacked to mean too many contrary things to what I am speaking of. It isn’t about surrender to what the Spirit would whisper into your ear. It is about entering a mindset that God has established from the very beginning. It is about seeing God’s character and personality, and recognizing that disposition. It is about reflecting the Divine nature, and in reflecting His nature, embracing His temperament. From that lifestyle we begin to reason quite differently than we had previously reasoned. Suddenly our thoughts are not our own thoughts. We begin thinking like loons and fools in the world’s eyes. Yet, from the sight of heaven, this kind of reasoning is precious. It is rare. It is upon these grounds that reason is valid, and no other.